Beam Me Up: Our Visit to the Vatican

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Over the 6 days Micah and I were in Rome, we realized that we had a lot of in common…we liked to see the sites, but we liked to see a different side of the sites – and we both loved to people watch. Ok – like any good gay man, Micah really liked to people watch for hot, Italian men…and I wasn’t complaining! Micah had a little Rome guide book so we used that to guide us through the ancient city and educate ourselves a bit when we did visit the traditional sites. I’m not much for ancient history, so I generally use the guides to gain a quick ‘cliff note’ understanding of what I’m looking at and why I should be looking at it. We covered a lot of ground in 6 days, and we saw many parts of Rome that I had never seen before. water fight Sure, we did some of the main sites, but we didn’t linger at them, we read our ‘cliff notes’ and kept moving. Instead we took the time to really see the people of Rome.

We encountered a great scene one hot afternoon – a bunch of teens in a huge water fight at a piazza fountain. It was extremely entertaining, and a good example of how teens around the world are the same. We went to political rallies, we made friends in bars, frequented local restaurants, and spent some great moments just sitting on the grass in parks enjoying people watching. Since this was Micah’s first trip to Italy, I wanted him to experience other parts of Italy too. Rome is lovely, but I wanted him to see Tuscany. We took the train to Siena for 2 days and found our inner-artists. He spent time drawing, and I spent time writing – it was extremely relaxing. We didn’t go on tours, we just hung out in the Campo, watching people drinking wine and soaking up the sun.

triangles When I lived in San Francisco, Micah and I formed a friendship through running, however while in Italy we didn’t run once the whole week. We were deficient in endorphins for the week. It was as if we had been taken off a drug we were addicted to…we were in withdrawal and compensated with exercising our imaginations instead. As we walked through Rome day after day, sometimes we got a little loopy…I prefer to think that it was caused from the heat – but it made the site-seeing fun!

You can’t go to Rome without going to the Vatican…at least that’s what everyone says. However I must admit – I’ve only been there once in 5 trips to Rome. I am not Catholic, I don’t understand the draw of the Pope and I hate to wait in lines and go through metal detectors to go see the inside of a church – so it’s not a normal stop on my Rome itinerary. However, Micah and I did a walking tour through the Trastevere neighborhood admiring the graffiti and the little funky shops – but when we finished – we looked at the map and saw that we were only a 5 minutes walk from the Holy Land…the Vatican City. So we decided to go see what all the fuss was about.

We arrived in St. Peters Square and took our standard pictures of the vast open space, the fountains, the obelisk, and the numerous columns. The piazza is encircled by these huge rows of columns, it’s impressive as they are lined up one after another, but in a semi circle – feeling as if they are enclosing you in the space. vatican fountain We thought about waiting in line to go into the Basilica, but wondered if it was a good idea for a non-catholic and a gay man to set foot in the holy place, spot lights and sirens might go off exposing us as holy trespassers! Plus – I wasn’t dressed properly…my shoulders were showing, so even if we wanted to go inside, we couldn’t. Instead we walked around the piazza admiring the architecture, people watching and getting our cliff note update from Micah’s Rome book. It was the same old stuff, until Micah came across something interesting that made me perk up. In the piazza near the fountain there were two metal discs in the ground, placed at just the exact point where you could stand and view the columns perfectly lined up…a mathematical/architectural marvel! I was intrigued by these discs…we MUST find them and see this! We started referring to them as the ‘magic discs’ as we hunted the piazza square for them as if we were hunting for lost treasure. Eureka, we found them! I stood on it and sure enough….the columns all lined up perfectly. If you stepped a foot off the disc, they were no longer in alignment. I was intrigued with the planning, architecture, and forethought that they put into this piazza. Excitedly I asked Micah what else the discs did…I mean really – they seemed quite powerful – maybe they could bring me an Italian lover, or a cold beer, or simply a diet coke…that would all be good.

Photo: Couple making out in the park
the kissMicah looked at me and in all seriousness said to me “The discs actually beam you directly to heaven….just like on Star Trek. It’s a shortcut.”
How could you not laugh at the thought of that! Ok – I’m sure that a few of you out there might be offended by this line of thinking…but in the heat of the day in the middle of the Vatican piazza….I thought it was brilliant! And no – we hadn’t been drinking…yet.

We both took our turns standing on the discs…saying our final goodbyes just in case Micah’s explanation was correct and one of us would immediately get beamed up to heaven. I kept on imagining Captain Kirk standing on the disc and telling Scotty to beam him up. At least I was dressed a little better than him, that had to count for something. It probably comes as no big surprise to hear that neither one of us went anywhere. Crap, I guess we weren’t holy enough…no shortcuts to heaven for us. Or maybe the discs just had low batteries…maybe it wasn’t us and our sinning ways….maybe the batteries just needed to be recharged. Regardless, we left the Vatican dejected and decided to stop for a glass of wine at a nearby bar. Actually we really had to go to the bathroom, so in Rome that means that you have to stop at some establishment, buy something, and then you can use the bathroom. Our feeling is that if you have to buy something – it might as well be wine or gelato…that day it was wine.

Photo: Girl jumping in a bouncy castle…love the colors!
bouncy castleWe left the bar feeling good – bladders relieved, cooled down from the AC, and thirst quenched. We decided to walk along the river, past an old castle, and over the bridge to the Piazza Narvona.

The walk along the riverfront was nice. However, in the distance we noticed that there was some big atrocious looking silver truck blocking our pathway.
In my wine haze, I asked Micah, “What is that?”
Without hesitating, he answered “That’s the Christ Cannon. If you aren’t beamed up by the Heavenly Disks, then you can have a second chance to make it to heaven via the Christ Cannon. They shoot you up in the sky towards St. Peters. God is there with a big catcher’s mitt.”
“It looks more like a milk truck or sewer truck…but I like this idea of having a second chance at heaven. Why not a cannon?! I always loved the Evel Knievel as a kid, and this seemed like just the kind of thing he would use to get to heaven!”
Micah continued, “Sure, it’s all great if you land in the catcher’s mitt, however all of the lost souls end up as foul balls, falling out of the range of the catcher’s mitt. The Pope just shakes his head in disgust as the lost souls fall into a big pile outside the Vatican. Of course the lost soul pile is mainly gay men and all of their girlfriends.”
I said, “Hmm – sounds like any gay clubbing in San Francisco…could be fun to get rejected”

Photo: Statue in Popolo
statueUnfortunately as we walked by to get a closer look at the cannon (aka truck), and get in line for our second chance at heaven, we realized that it was clearly out of service at this time. There was some guy working on repairing it. I suppose that some sinner got it all backed up earlier in the day…and now they ruined it for us. It was probably an American tourist that didn’t bring the right electronic converter for Europe and blew the fuse on the Christ Cannon. Oh well, Micah and I were bummed that we were unable to have our second chance into heaven – we were getting a bit distraught. To make ourselves feel better we walked across the river to the Piazza Narvona and bought a ‘Hot Priest’ Calendar. A new good looking priest for each month…what a concept! Yup…we are going to hell for sure now.

As we wandered into the Piazza we continued to laugh about this whole heavenly entry concept. We wandered around the narrow little streets and suddenly a little Fiat abruptly passed us practically running us over.
Micah was inspired by it and said, ”Ahhh – then there’s the Faith Fiat…the last chance to get into heaven if Heavenly Discs and Christ Cannon fails you. The Faith Fiat picks up hopeless hitch hikers that were rejected by the Discs and the Cannon and takes them to heaven. But it’s a small car – so there’s not a lot of room. In addition, it takes a long time to get there, but it’s worth it.”
“There are many Fiats in this town, I guess you can distinguish the Faith Fiat by the rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror and the Fish bumper sticker.” I said.
Micah finished the thought with, “Whatever you do, don’t get in the wrong Fiat, the red one that has an ‘I brake for sinners’ bumper sticker. You’ll be sorry if you enter that Fiat – it would be disastrous”

Upon this last comment I nearly peed my pants.

Photo: Boys impersonating a seal…
soccer We took a long walk back towards the Colosseum and found a great all you can eat pasta place. They just keep bringing you more plates of different pasta (you can’t specifiy what kind) until you say “basta pasta!”…meaning enough pasta! We also ordered a ½ liter of house wine, and the waitress said that they only have liters of wine. I looked at Micah and said – that’s a lot of wine…but we got it anyway. I told him that we didn’t have to drink it all. Micah countered that with “Yes we do.”. We recounted our day of religious antics and stories recounted over that big liter of wine and many plates of pasta! Somehow, the whole story seemed hilarious to us at that moment…(I’m sure it didn’t have anything to do with the liter of wine). I told Micah that I would try my best to write about it as we wondered to ourselves if anyone else would find the Heavenly Discs, the Christ Cannon, or the Faith Fiat as funny as we did. Instead most likely I’ve offended some people…but it was all in good humor. Heck – I saw today in the news that the Vatican put out a new set of 10 commandments. I’m not joking. This new set of commandments is for drivers, telling motorists to be charitable to others on the highway, to refrain from drinking and driving, and to pray you make it before you even buckle up. See – the Vatican is hard at work! This just proves to me that obviously the Vatican has a sense of humor. I wonder if they found those new tablets in a burning red Fiat?

The next day as Micah and I explored more great sites, we entered the Pantheon and enjoyed the amazing architecture. Once again we read the cliff notes out of the Rome book and learned that when it rains, the rain falls into the Pantheon through the large opening in the ceiling and then quickly drains off the marble floor into 22 hidden holes in the floor! Once again, I was on a hunt to find the hidden holes. When we found them, Micah started talking about the fact that out of the holes came a heavenly vapor that you could breath in and be cleansed. Here we go again…

Photo: Micah and I in the Campo in Siena
micah and I
The whole trip with Micah was great – it was completely chill, slow, and comfortable – but most of all, it was funny! At least it was funny to us at the time – I’m not really sure how the whole thing will translate…but we were pretty proud of ourselves for exercising our imaginations…granted – I didn’t find any shortcuts to heaven, but maybe I’ll have another chance when I climb Mt. Sinai next month… or maybe I’ll find yet another set of 10 commandments…the ones to use for standing in line at airport security…stay tuned!

Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of Briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice.

Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at Ottsworld.com.com.
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